Written by Sexual Wellness Institute Therapist, Dr. Lauren Fogel Mersy, PsyD LP
Making change in your relationship is possible, even now.
We know this pandemic feels never-ending and that, if you’re quarantining with your partner or spouse, you may be spending a LOT of time together. You may be losing steam for making intentional time to connect, and that makes total sense. It’s been a long journey!
With so much going on in the world, it can be difficult to find the energy to put into your relationship and it’s still important to connect in positive ways. Because we know your tank may be low or even feel empty, we want to give you some small and easy ways to improve your overall relationship (and even your sex life!). These small gestures are called bids for connection, a term by Dr. John Gottman, world renowned relationship researcher, therapist, and one of the founders of Gottman Method Couples Therapy.
What’s a Bid for Connection?
A bid for connection is any action or gesture made to positively connect with a partner or loved one. We are constantly making bids to our loved ones for comfort, affection, attention, intellectual stimulation, support, etc. Gestures can be overt and obvious, or they can be more subtle. Check out this quick video:
Some examples of more overt or obvious bids for connection include:
Here are some examples of more subtle bids for connection:
Ways to Respond to Bids for Connection
There are generally three ways in which we can respond to a bid for connection:
Turning Against a Bid for Connection
Turning against a bid is when we outright reject the bid. This can be done intentionally or unintentionally. It can be brash or it can be dismissive. Either way, it may feel disappointing, frustrating, or hurtful to the person making the bid to connect. It sends the message that their needs aren’t important, even if that’s not the intended message the responding partner is meaning to send. Turning against bids, over time, can erode fondness and admiration in the relationship, as well as diminish trust. The person making the bids might learn over time that their needs won’t be met or that their gestures are unimportant.
Turning Away From a Bid for Connection
Turning away from a bid is when we ignore or miss the bid. There may be times when this is out of malice, such as the case of intentionally ignoring a bid, or it may be more about mindlessness, not recognizing the bid in the first place. Turning away from bids, over time, can also erode trust in the relationship. In fact, turning away is a combination of rejecting a bid, while also not really seeing or hearing the bidder, in some ways, making it worse than turning against. It may sound strange, but many people would prefer to be rejected than to be ignored.
Turning Towards a Bid for Connection
Turning towards a bid is when we acknowledge the bid. This doesn’t mean that we have to drop everything we’re doing and be at our partner or loved one’s beck and call. It means that we are attentive to the fact that a bid was made and we respond with acknowledgement. Turning towards helps to build trust and fondness in relationships. It sends the message that the bidder’s needs matter, even if we can’t attend to them at the moment that the bid is made.
Here are some examples of the three responses to bids for connection:
Why Bids for Connection Are Important
Turning towards bids for connection is one of the strongest predictors of relationship health and satisfaction. In fact, it’s one of Dr. Gottman’s 7 principles for making relationships work. He conducted a study with newlyweds and then followed up with them after six years. The couples who were still together turned towards each other an average of 86% of the time, whereas the couples who had split up at that 6-year follow-up had an average turning towards rate of only 33% of the time. Turning towards shows that we are paying attention, that the other person is important to us, and that their needs matter.
Bids for Connection and Sex
Initiating sex is one example of a bid for connection. This could be a verbal bid, like “Do you want to have sex?” or “Want to get into bed early?” or it could be physical, like kissing your partner’s neck or caressing them. Being thoughtful about how we respond to bids for sex is so important, because initiating sex can feel vulnerable. Here are some examples of ways to thoughtfully respond to a bid for sex:
Remember, you don’t have to drop everything to meet every bid that comes your way. Just being attentive and mindful to bids goes a long way in making relationships work. And if you do happen to reject or miss a bid, find a way to acknowledge that and offer a repair.
Considering Sex Therapy or Couples Therapy in Minnesota?
Don’t wait any longer to get the sex therapy you deserve. Our sex therapists want to help you address sexual and relationship concerns here in Plymouth, or anywhere in the state with online therapy in Minnesota. Get started by following these simple steps:
Other Mental Health Services in Minnesota
In addition to sex therapy, our LGBT & polyamory friendly sex therapists provide a wide range of mental health services at our Plymouth, MN counseling office. Other services include couples therapy & marriage counseling, EFT, evidence-based couples therapy, EMDR & sexual trauma therapy, as well as, teen therapy. In order to help serve the mental health needs of all those living in Minnesota, we also offer online counseling & sex therapy. We also provide a variety of helpful tips on our mental health blog. Please feel free to reach out with questions, or if you would like to schedule an appointment to begin working with a skilled sex therapist! Your sex life can be amazing. Sex therapy can be a part of that process for you.